How to redesign a church to create a community space

Altar bespoke church furniture
Creating a community-centric space without losing character, heritage or purpose is on the wish list of many churches and cathedrals in Britain at the moment. We are lucky to have been involved in a number of projects that have successfully achieved this with vision, passion and sensitivity. Churches are intentionally redesigning their space to serve the needs of the community, which has the dual purpose of reinforcing their role in modern society and generating new income streams to support the upkeep of the buildings and ongoing ministries.

Redesigning a church building for the community

From our experience of working with church leaders and architects, one of the key objectives is to create a flexible space. One of the most practical ways of achieving this is to design seating and other ecclesiastical furnishings that can be moved easily. This allows the space to be used for different functions, from worship and choir practice to theatre and dance. This emphasis on creating a multipurpose space was behind much of our work for Wakefield Cathedral’s major refurbishment project. We designed a new altar and ambo, both of which were carefully engineered to move on custom built castors so that they could be repositioned easily. We also made some new choir stalls to fit in with the updated style of the interiors but still complement the historic fabric of the building. Greater interior flexibility can do away with the need to carry out major building work to extend the premises. Architects who specialise in ecclesiastical redesign projects often have some innovative solutions to open up existing space. Thought is also given to the fact that many community groups may need break out areas or separate rooms to run outreach services or skills based training. The whole process evolves from a community first perspective that sees the church as a functional core.

The successful refurbishment of Wakefield Cathedral

Wakefield Cathedral is an historic Grade I listed building in the heart of a bustling and diverse city. Parts of the structure date back to the 12th century and it was no small task to take this iconic place of worship into the 21st Century. As the Very Reverend Jonathan Greener told the BBC: “From top to bottom, east to west; this is one of the most dramatic refurbishments of any cathedral.” Before work began the cathedral was in danger of becoming obsolete and the list of repairs needed to keep it going was growing all the time. It felt old and unwelcoming. Rather than restore it in its existing format, simply as a piece of history, the decision was taken to transform it into an inclusive space that would put it at the heart of city life again. It was thrilling to be involved as part of the team that achieved this dream. The design process was extremely collaborative as we sought to understand how the cathedral would be used for worship, prayer and everyday life. Read our blog on Designing Bespoke Church Furniture for Modern Communities to learn more about how we approached the task.

To speak to one of the team about an ecclesiastical project please call the workshop on 0113 256 7376 or email